Barrow meets with Waynesboro constituents

Correction, Aug. 31, 2009: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to U.S. Rep. John Barrow as a senator. The Chronicle regrets the error.

WAYNESBORO, Ga. --- In spite of the letter behind his name, U.S. Rep. John Barrow emphasized to a crowd of about 75 people Saturday that he believes Congress should go back to the drawing board on the health care reform bill.

"This is 1,000 pages that need to be fixed," the Democratic congressman said at a park pavilion in downtown Waynesboro. "We have to figure out what's worth keeping and what's worth doing away with, but it's a mistake to think that everything that this bill stands for is wrong."

Mr. Barrow met with his constituents during his Congress on the Corner event to hear their concerns about the health care bill, veterans' rights, illegal immigration and other issues.

Most questions, however, were related to health care reform.

Waynesboro resident Scott Shepherd expressed concerned about the bill imposing coverage on taxpayers they don't want.

"I think most of us don't want this, and all we can see is intrusion and undermining our rights," Mr. Shepherd said as the crowd applauded.

Mr. Barrow said he opposed the bill presented to Congress in July because of the lack of tort reform and the cost inefficiency of the bill. He vowed to vote yes on a bill only if it would help secure health insurance for the 15 percent of people who cannot afford it without burdening taxpayers.

Robin Kosoris, of Effingham County, said he was pleased with Mr. Barrow's answers Saturday evening. He said he is uninsured because of hypertension and other health problems.

"It makes no sense that these insurance companies can pick and choose who to give coverage to, because of the monopoly that's in place," Mr. Kosoris said. "I feel Mr. Barrow does have the right attitude about this thing and the right ideas."

Buddy Faulkner, of Waynesboro, said though he feels Mr. Barrow is concerned about veterans, state-level Veterans Affairs officials are denying veterans their benefits.

Mr. Barrow said ensuring that resources are available and increasing oversight of state-level agencies would help ease the problem. This year, 40 percent more money was invested in veteran health care benefits compared to two years ago, he said.

"That's not enough, but that's 40 percent in the right direction," Mr. Barrow said.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.